One race-day variable that I see runners struggle with over and over again is the weather. They don't seem to understand that the temperature isn't something they can control, but how they adjust to it is completely their call. If the race is hot, you can adapt your expectations and still emerge with a positive experience.
Here are my tips for dealing with a hot and humid race day.
1. Adjust expectations
Don't start the race with the same goals you had in mind when you were training. If you stubbornly go after the same pace you practiced, you'll probably end up on a death march toward the finish line. Begin conservatively and figure out if you're able to gradually step on the gas over the final few miles. And allow yourself to set different goals if the conditions just aren't cooperating. Studies show that for every 5 degrees that temperatures rise after 60 degrees, you can expect to slow down nearly 20 to 30 seconds per mile. Forget the watch and run by perceived effort. You'll probably finish much stronger that way.
2. Wear appropriate clothing
You want to make sure your gear is helping to keep you cool, so pull out loosely fitting apparel made of sweat-wicking material. Consider wearing sunglasses and a cap, and apply sunscreen.
3. Splash yourself
When you pass aid stations, take a cup to drink and a cup to splash water over your head as a cooling mechanism. Sometimes races will provide other cooling measures, like cold sponges or hoses spraying the runners. If you feel like you're overheating, take advantage of those amenities.
4. Hydrate before, during, and after the race
You want your urine to be light yellow – that's how you know your hydration game is on point. Make sure you're taking in a couple of ounces of sports drinks that contain electrolytes, which help your body absorb water. There's no need to overdo it, but make sure you aren't feeling thirsty. You want to pay attention to your hydration beginning the day before the race.
This story originally appeared on Rodale Wellness and was adapted from Bart Yasso's and Erin Strout's new book, "Runner's World Race Everything: How to Conquer Any Race at Any Distance in Any Environment and Have Fun Doing It."